2018 in review: Michael Clifford's A-Z of the year that was

Michael Clifford takes a look back over the year that was.

2018 in review: Michael Clifford's A-Z of the year that was

Michael Clifford takes a look back over the year that was.

A – A Star Is Born

In one of the movies of the year, A Star Is Born (right), a star was reborn as a star of a different hue.

Lady Gaga is known as a pop and fashion icon. In the remake of the movie, which was directed by and co-starred Bradley Cooper, Gaga demonstrated an ability to act that was arresting and surprising.

If she ever tires of bestriding the worlds of pop and fashion, she should have no problem making a fist of the acting business.

A Star Is Born is red hot favourite to dominate the Oscars in the coming months.

You can now place your bets that the most photographed star on the night of stars will be Gaga, as she is unlikely to disappoint in terms of her fashion choice.

B – Brexit

And so the clock ticks towards March 29.

The year gone by was, to a large extent, a wasted one in terms of mapping out the future of the EU sans the UK.

What emerged in November, as the exit deal was debated in the House of Commons, was that the representatives of the UK don’t know what they really, really want.

The year was dominated by the extreme voices of Boris ‘BoJo the Clown’ Johnson, and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the honourable member for the 19th century.

The other figure to dominate Brexit has been British prime minister Theresa May.

She has, from the outset, made a succession of strategic mistakes, all informed by the fact that she has maintained one eye on her party while negotiating the future of her country.

However, once the deal was endorsed by the other 27 EU leaders on November 25, she showed a determination to do something right.

In this regard, she is the adult in the room at Westminster, charged with extracting her party from the fantasy of Brexit and delivering the reality.

Don’t expect her to be prime minister by the middle of the coming year.

The only real winner in the Brexit farrago over the last 12 months was RTÉ’s Europe editor, Tony Connolly, who excelled in his job.

C – Corless, Catherine

An amateur historian from Tuam, Corless (right) excavated the darkest of secrets from this country’s past.

Her interest in the local mother and baby homes was sparked when she did a little research and coupled that with memories from her childhood of the women she used to see emerging from the home, remaining separate in the community.

Eventually, Corless discovered 798 death records from the home but no burial records.

Her persistence eventually led to the setting up of a commission of investigation into what happened to children who died there and in other homes through the dark decades of the last century.

In April, she was recognised with a People of the Year award.

On that occasion and during an appearance on the Late Late Show, she received a standing ovation.

Her work has been highlighted around the world, including in an extended piece in the New York Times.

President Michael D Higgins also noted her contribution at the Galway Arts Festival in July.

“She has demonstrated not only courage and perseverance but a remarkable commitment to uncovering the truth, to historical truth and to moral truth,” he said.

“All of us in this republic owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine for what was an extraordinary act of civic virtue.”

As is often the case, El Presidente put into words the thoughts of a good chunk of the nation.

D – Disclosures Tribunal

The report of the Disclosures Tribunal was published on October 11.

Officially it was the third interim report of the tribunal, but to all intents and purposes it was the main event.

Judge Peter Charleton found that a “campaign of calumny” had been waged against Sgt Maurice McCabe by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and superintendent David Taylor.

The judge also ruled that Sgt McCabe had done the State a “considerable service”.

The publication was followed, on October 31, by his retirement.

Despite the public vindication as expressed by the tribunal, and a visit from new commissioner Drew Harris, Sgt McCabe decided it was time to go.

Thus ended a remarkable career in An Garda Síochána, the legacy of which could turn out to be a transformation in how our police force operates.

E – Eighth Amendment

In the end, the result was emphatic.

The people hadn’t just spoken — they had changed, changed irrevocably.

On May 25, the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution — the ban on abortion — took place, with over 2.1m people casting votes.

The result was that 66.4% voted to remove the ban. This was much higher than had been expected.

It was also a complete flip from 1983, when roughly the same majority voted to insert the ban in the Constitution, with a turnout of 1.2m voters.

It was a day for Mná na hÉireann, or so they said.

In fact, the bog standard Martian landing in Ireland in the aftermath of the vote might, on the basis of media coverage, have come to conclude that women and women only were responsible for the outcome.

Still, the result and how the campaign was handled was a sign that the country has grown up somewhat.

F – Francis, Pope

On August 25-26, the leader of the Catholic Church visited Ireland for the first time since 1979.

Different man wearing the shoes of the fisherman. Different country.

Pope Francis is well regarded beyond the fold, coming across as a compassionate man attempting to negotiate his Church’s role in the modern world.

The past, however, won’t leave him alone.

The weeks ahead of his visit were heavy with reports of how the Church had failed the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

By the time he touched down, the issue was in danger of dominating his visit.

But things did go smoothly.

The only blip was on the second day when an estimated 152,000 people showed for Mass in the Phoenix Park.

Around half a million had been expected.

Meanwhile, a demonstration called Stand For Truth was held simultaneously in Dublin city centre over the Church’s handling of child sexual abuse.

Around 5,000 showed up, which, for the event, was a considerable attendance.

Then the Pope was gone.

So too, quite obviously, were the days when the country came to a standstill during a papal visit.

G – Good Friday

March 30, 2018, the day the pubs stayed open.

A tradition dating back to the days of the crown came to an end when pubs were allowed to open on Good Friday this year.

The law changing the ban, an amendment to the Intoxicating Liquor Act, had been passed on January 25.

For some, this represented one more signal that the days when the Church ruled the State were at an end.

On a deeper level though, something else was going on.

One of the underlying reasons for the ban had been an attitude that the only way the citizenry was capable of refraining from the sauce was to shut up shop.

Thus Christmas Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Good Friday were deemed occasions when everybody stayed at home and pubs closed at 10pm every Sunday to ensure we all went to work.

Those days are gone, gone, gone.

There is a realisation that control does not alleviate problems with the national lubricant.

There is also the realisation that the pub is no longer the only, or even the central, trough from which the populace drink.

Some irony attaches to the fact that the pubs can now open on Good Friday, but some don’t even open seven days a week anymore, such are the changing mores in the country.

H – Housing

There was little abatement of the housing emergency during the year.

The Government had a lot of noises, massaged some figures, and made a few genuine attempts to get things moving.

Despite the human toll of homelessness and penalising rents, there remains a suspicion that it is not receiving the kind of radical rethink that is required.

I – Interference in US elections

The Donald spent much of the year tweeting about his nemesis, Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Russians helped Trump get elected in 2016.

The Mueller investigation reached a number of landmarks during the year, including the conviction of close associates of The Donald: Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort.

The latter pair have received prison sentences, and Manafort, who attempted to pull the wool over Mueller’s eyes by half co-operating, could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Flynn is due to be sentenced in the new year.

As of now, there are 17 different court cases against Trump or associates, related to where Mueller’s investigation has shone a light.

And the special counsel himself hasn’t even reported yet.

All of that is apart from what is emerging about Trump paying off women to stay silent about any sexual liaisons they may or may not have had with him.

The past for The Donald isn’t past. Next year is likely to be as turbulent and shocking.

J – June’s gift

On June 5, a syndicate of 32 people from a hardware shop in Thurles won the Euromillions jackpot — €17m.

This was the only Euromillions jackpot won in Ireland this year and the 13th since it began in 2004.

In a time of turbulence and uncertainty, it’s nice to see a little sunshine entering the lives of the lucky.

K – Khashoggi, Jamal

The exiled journalist entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul around lunchtime on October 2.

His fiancé waited outside as he went to get papers required for their marriage.

Some minutes later, he was assaulted, murdered, and completely dismembered.

He had been an irritant to the Saudi regime and particularly to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Initially, the Saudi government denied the murder.

Then, in the face of mounting evidence, they admitted it.

Eighteen Saudis, including the team of 15 that had been sent to Istanbul to do the deed, were arrested.

They were a rogue element, said the government.

The crown prince was horrified.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies believe MBS, as he is known, ordered the killing.

In all likelihood he will get away with it.

L – Limerick

On August 19, Limerick were crowned All-Ireland hurling champions for the first time in 45 years.

The county went bananas — and why not?

In a tense game the boys from the Treaty City kept their noses in front, defying the favourites, and reigning champs, Galway.

In the end, Limerick won by a point (3-16 to 2-18) and had to endure a last-minute free from Joe Canning that just fell short.

Afterwards, Limerick’s greatest fan, JP McManus, donated €2.5m to the GAA countrywide as a mark of his happiness at the win.

The serfs were duly grateful for the tax exile’s generosity.

M – Murphy, Tom

The greatest playwright of his generation passed away on May 15.

He arrived on the international stage in 1961 when the Theatre Royal in London staged A Whistle in the Dark, a violent and disturbing piece of work about an immigrant Irish family in the UK.

Thereafter, he continued to return to the well time and again and draw up some of the best drama on offer anywhere.

He also inspired a generation of younger playwrights, including Enda Walsh, who mourned the loss in the weeks after Murphy’s death.

“For my generation, his stunning plays were an inspiration,” said Walsh.

“He was the reason why I wanted to be a playwright.

"He was always incredibly supportive of the work and generous with his time.

"For those who were lucky enough to know him, there was no one more enigmatic and wise than Tom. I loved him.”

N – Nuptials

On November 26, Shane McGowan married his long-term partner, Victoria Mary Clarke, in Copenhagen.

They were wedded in a civil ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, including Johnny Depp.

The Pogues singer has been a masterful songwriter over the years.

The band’s biggest hit, although arguably far from the best, was ‘Fairytale of New York’.

The song that probably best sums up Shane’s often chaotic existence is not one of his own, but the hit by the Bee Gees, ‘Stayin’ Alive’.

Victoria announced the imminent wedding in the Sunday Independent a few days ahead of the occasion.

“Marriage is a scary business, a big commitment,” she said.

“You might know that you have met ‘The One’, the minute you lay eyes on them across a crowded bar.

"You might have been mesmerised, enchanted, and entirely convinced that you couldn’t live without them. But you have to be certain.”

The couple has been together for 32 years and been engaged for the last 11.

Hopefully they’re not rushing into anything like a couple of crazy, mixed-up kids.

O – O’Neill, Martin

And his little helper, Keane, Roy.

The end was swift, but the going took a while.

The manager of the Republic of Ireland resigned on November 21 after a 12-month period in which only one game out of 11 resulted in victory.

O’Neill and Keane had been in situ for five years, in which there were highs such as beating Germany at home and Italy in Euro 2016 in Lille.

But the fleeting glory days had faded by the back end of 2018.

John Delaney moved quickly.

Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny were on board within a week of the other pair leaving.

The state of Irish soccer today would appear to resemble that of Irish rugby some 30 years ago, when the late Mick Doyle described it as: “The situation is desperate, but not serious.”

Meanwhile, the world, or at least the compiler of the A-Z, awaits Roy’s next move.

P – President

Michael D Higgins’ term as president expired during the year.

He came to the conclusion that the country still needed him.

He saw the opposition. He conquered.

The election on October 26 was a damp squib.

There were six candidates but no real challengers to the poet president.

The paucity of the contest was reflected in the main talking point once the votes were counted.

Peter Casey, who has made a few bob in business, came second on 22%, having been at 11% in opinion polls a week earlier.

He drew a kick at the Travelling community and shot up the polls.

In the end, though, Michael D won a resounding re-election.

He seems to be enjoying the job.

Q – Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin died on August 16, at the age of 76.

A light went out across the world as the voice of America was silenced.

Aretha bestrode the world stage for over 50 years.

She began her singing life in a Baptist Church in Detroit and came of age in the ’60s, thrust to the forefront of both a musical revolution and the campaign for civil rights.

By the end of that decade, she had acquired the title Queen of Soul, interpreting songs such as ‘Respect’, ‘Chain of Fools’, and ‘I Say A Little Prayer.’

As her life ebbed away last August, those who came to pay homage included Stevie Wonder and Jesse Jackson.

She truly was one of a kind.

R – Rape trial

On Monday, January 29, what came to be known as the Belfast rape trial opened.

Ireland internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding went on trial along with two friends who were charged with associated offences.

It all related to an incident in Jackson’s house in 2016 in which the complainant said she was raped.

What emerged over the course of a torturous trial was a picture of young, privileged men who appeared to regard women as pieces of meat.

The trial was introduced to a trail of texts and evidence from others who were present, which were incriminating not of a crime but a mentality that was venal, sexist, and informed by a sense of entitlement.

On March 28, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges.

Marches of protest in various cities north and south ensued, but there was little to suggest that the jury had erred on the basis of the evidence.

The IRFU and Ulster released Jackson and Olding from their contracts.

They now play in France.

The complainant remained largely anonymous and there has been no sign of a civil action to follow.

S – Sutherland, Peter

On January 7, the death of Peter Sutherland was announced.

He had served as attorney general, EU commissioner, director general of the World Trade Organization, and a host of other roles.

In his last years, he served as passionate advocate for refugees while UN special representative of migration.

He did the State and the wider world some service.

T – Thai cave rescue

In a world that is growing colder, the Thai cave rescue in the summer was an incident that seemed to unify the planet.

On June 23, 12 boys aged from 11 to 17 and their 25-year-old coach entered the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand.

They went having a bit of fun, and then they disappeared.

Rising waters over the following days left them trapped deep within the cave complex.

A search and rescue mission began almost immediately, but with each passing day, and each empty cave searched, hope faded.

Inclement weather then put a stay on the operation before it resumed on July 2.

At 10pm that evening, two British divers happened upon the stranded team.

They had survived on a ledge above the flooding waters for the previous nine days.

The world tuned in to a near miraculous discovery.

Finding them, however, was one thing. Getting them out was a different matter.

It was another six days, the loss of a diver’s life, and detailed planning and aid from around the world before they saw the light of day again.

One by one, the boys were taken out in an operation that defied the elements and nature in a manner that is both rare and unifying.

U – U2

Was this the last of them?

The band completed their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour this year with a series of gigs in Belfast and Dublin.

Bono is feeling the years, as he related in an interview in September in which he signalled a quieter time for lawmakers.

“I can’t do as much as I used to,” said Bono.

“On previous tours, I could meet a hundred lawmakers in between shows and now I know I can’t do that.”

The band always said they wouldn’t turn into a greatest hits outfit.

Time and the coming year may well tell.

V – Vicky Phelan

On April 23, Vicky Phelan emerged from the High Court after reaching a settlement of €2.3m for the misreading of scans that may have saved her from cervical cancer.

Outside, she spoke a few words about the hell thrust on her and her family and for the rest of the year she demonstrated what it is to be a profile in courage.

Following her case, the Scally inquiry into what went wrong was set up.

He came back with the conclusion that there was a whole series of mishaps, poor process, and an attitude among some senior medics that showed scant consideration for that to which they had been subjected.

Throughout the year, Phelan continued to make her voice heard, advocating for justice for the past and the availability of life-saving drugs for cancer patients.

All of this she has done while struggling with a terminal disease and rearing her two young children.

W – Weather

On July 16, at the height of a heatwave, water shortages came into force in Dublin.

By then there was already restrictions in 25 localised areas around the country.

The drastic move was a reflection on the perilous state of water treatment and supplies but also a response to over three weeks without a drop of rain.

The heatwave straddling June and July was the weather event of the year.

We had snow in March, and more storms than used to appear in a decade, but the summer breeze was makin‘ us all feel fine.

The year also saw Donald Trump withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change at a time when scientists are growing blue in the face telling the world that things better change because the planet is changing irrevocably.

X – Xi, the leader of China, a serious dude

In May, the Chinese leader topped the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the world.

He dethroned Vladamir Putin, who came in second.

These two serious and sober individuals were followed in third place by Donald J Trump, the leader of the tweeting world.

Xi’s ascent to the top of the Forbes list reflects not just China’s growing influence on the world but his own tightening grasp on power within the country.

In March, he organised that term limits be abolished for holders of high office.

This elevated himself to a position of power not seen since the days of Mao Zedong, the founding father of China.

It is also being noted that, at a time of economic liberalisation in Asia and China increasingly becoming an unassailable power, there is absolutely no corresponding reforms in a system that resembles in so many ways a dictatorship.

Y – You’re dead

He could still hear the drums, could Fernando. He wasn’t dead at all.

On Thursday, November 22, Ballybrack FC informed the Leinster Senior League that it wouldn’t be able to fulfil a vital game against Arklow FC as one of their players had been killed in a road traffic accident.

Fernando Lafuente Saiz had been playing for the club for less than a year.

A popular lad, he had come to this country from his native Spain and now it had all ended horribly.

The soccer community bowed its head.

Black armbands were worn at some games in the Leinster Senior League.

Sympathy was extended to the teammates and club friends of poor departed Fernando.

Then an official asked Ballybrack about funeral arrangements and was told that the dead man was already back in Spain.

Red lights flashed. Investigation followed.

And while some were saying that Fernando was dead, he was alive and well and living in Galway.

The whole thing had been a ruse to get the club out of playing the game with a depleted squad.

Fernando had been told that he might be reported with a broken leg but nobody said anything about dying.

He told RTÉ how he found out about his demise: “I was at home, just finished work and playing some video games when suddenly I got a call from work saying ‘what happened’.

"They told me I was a celebrity and they started sending me all these news articles and that’s how I found out I was dead last night.”

Z – Zealand, New, formerly No1 rugby nation in world

On St Patrick’s Day, Ireland beat England 24-15 to win the Six Nations grand slam for only the third time.

On November 17, Ireland beat New Zealand 16-9.

It was the second time ever that the Irish had defeated the All Blacks and the first on home soil.

Following that result, Ireland was unofficially raised to number one team in the world rugby rankings.

The year was probably the best in the history of the game for this country, but it ended on a down note as Joe Schmidt announced this month that he would be leaving his role as coach after the World Cup in 2019.

Now, the country is likely to be favourite for the World Cup, which, if superstition or the fatalistic mentality of the Irish is anything to go by, means we’re doomed.

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